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Mahwah's 2012 ‘Organization of the Year’ Embarking on Exciting 2013

Going into its fifth year of existence, MEVO has grown from an after school club to an award-winning non-profit

MEVO, a group that started as a small environmental club at Mahwah High School in 2008 and has grown into one of the township’s most prominent non-profit organizations, capped off a banner year in 2012 with a community-wide recognition of the work the group has done.

The Mahwah Environmental Volunteer Organization, which coordinates park and river cleanups, tree plantings, and other volunteer activities in and around Mahwah, started off 2012 in a big way. The group was named one of the Russ Berrie Foundation Award For Making a Difference finalists, and was . The award, given out at Ramapo College every year, is designed to recognize unsung heroes doing great work in New Jersey communities.

Over the summer, the group expanded, and added another leg to its endeavors. ‘Farm to Live,’ which operates under the MEVO umbrella, works to spread and promote sustainable living practices. So far, the group has set up sustainable gardens throughout the county, and is working to spread awareness about how organic gardens can be maintained in suburban and urban areas of NY and NJ.

In June, the North Face .

Going into the final months of the year, MEVO founder and President Eric J. Fuchs-Stengel, said he was not expecting another recognition.

“I couldn’t really believe it when I got the email,” he said.

When the initial shock wore off, Fuchs-Stengel said being named the Mahwah Regional Chamber of Commerce 2012 Organization of the Year was a major honor.

“To know that we have the support of the business community, and to get this award from such an important group in the local community means so much to us,” he said.

MEVO representatives attended an MRCC awards luncheon in December where they accepted the award.

MHS grad Emma Spett, who ran many of the group’s volunteer efforts in 2012, said MEVO has developed a great relationship with the township over the four years it has existed.

“We have a strong relationship with Mahwah, and this award really validated that,” Spett said. “We started MEVO in high school, and it still has a strong base there. But as we are growing and going to college, MEVO is growing with us. For the first time last year, we organized a 130-person clean-up and now we have major corporations in town looking to volunteer with us. MEVO’s growth has been really natural and I really feel like the possibilities are endless.”

The group will be exploring a lot of new possibilities in 2013, Fuchs-Stengel said. The group is continuing to hand out recycling bins to local businesses, and is expanding its Farm to Live Program to include an organic farm at Mahwah High School and at other locations throughout the county.

In the spring and summer, the group will be building a hiking trail in Emerson Township, and this spring, Mahwah residents should look out for a MEVO-run tire clean-up competition at Stag Hill.

“There are over 400 tires up there that need to go,” Fuchs-Stengel said. “So, we wanted to make it fun. Groups will have to pay an entrance fee to get in, and then the team that collects the most tires will win all of the money.”

Fuchs-Stengel said all of the accolades, and grants, the group received in 2012 have jumpstarted a big year in 2013.

“Every award or grant we get means a lot to us, and it goes a long way,” he said. “We’re just really excited for MEVO’s future.”

MEVO accepted its MRCC award along with the 2012 recipients of the Chamber Citizen of the Year, Dr. Peter Mercer, President of Ramapo College, and Company of the Year, Inserra Supermarkets, which owns 22 Shop Rites throughout the area, including the store in Ramsey. All three award recipients were thanked for their involvement in the community.

Submit your questions or news tips to jessica.mazzola@patch.com. And, remember to sign up for Patch's daily newsletter, and get updates on Facebook and Twitter.

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